Storms can happen any time of the year. They can bring strong winds, heavy rain or snow, thunder, lightning, tornadoes and rough seas. Storms can affect wide areas, damaging property and disrupting services. Find out what to do before, during and after a storm.

Get ready before a storm

Keep up to date with MetService weather forecasts.

Work out what supplies you might need and make a plan together. Have materials and tools ready to repair windows, such as tarpaulins, boards and duct tape.

Identify a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be a place where there are no windows, skylights, or glass doors, which could be broken by strong winds or hail and cause damage or injury.

Know which paddocks are safe if you have livestock. Move livestock away from floodwaters, landslides, power lines and isolated trees to prevent risks from lightning.

Be aware that floods and landslides can be triggered by storms.  Make sure you know how to respond.

Prepare your property for high winds

Tie down your trampoline and other heavy outdoor objects and remove anything that could become a damaging missile.
Make a list of items to bring inside or tie down when strong winds are forecast. A list will help you remember anything that can be broken or picked up by strong winds.

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Keep up to date with MetService weather forecasts.

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In an emergency, you may be stuck at home for three days or more. Figure out what supplies you need and make a plan to work out what you need to get your family through.

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Make a plan online with your family/flatmates/friends to get through an emergency. Think about the things you need every day and work out what you would do if you didn’t have them.

What to do during a storm

When a storm is forecast

Bring inside or tie down anything that can be broken or picked up by strong winds. If you have a trampoline, turn it upside down to minimise the surface area exposed to wind.

Remove any debris or loose items from around your property. Branches and firewood may become missiles in strong winds.

Bring pets indoors. Many animals are unsettled by storms and it is more comforting and safer for them to be with you.

During a storm

Stay inside. Don't walk around outside and avoid driving unless absolutely necessary.

Close exterior and interior doors and windows. Pull curtains and blinds over windows. This could prevent injury from flying glass if the window is broken.

Stay informed by listening to the radio or by following your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group online. Follow the instructions of civil defence and emergency services.

Avoid bathtubs, water taps, and sinks because metal pipes and plumbing can conduct electricity if struck by lightning. Use your water from your emergency supplies.

Unplug small appliances that may be affected by electrical power surges. If power is lost, unplug major appliances to reduce the power surge and possible damage when power is restored.

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The National Emergency Management Agency has information on finding your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

What to do after a storm

Keep listening to the radio or following your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group online for information and instructions.

Check for injuries and get first aid if necessary.

Check on your neighbours and anyone who might need your help.

Contact your local council if your house or building has been severely damaged. Ask your council for advice on how to clean up debris safely.

If your property is damaged:

  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
  • If you rent your property, contact your landlord and your contents insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Take photos of any damage. It will help speed up assessments of your claims.
  • Do not do anything that puts your safety at risk or causes more damage to your property.

Stay alert for extended rainfall, flooding, landslides and debris hazards, especially when driving.

  • In a snowstorm, the primary concerns are the potential loss of heat, power and telephone service, and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day.

    If you live in a region at risk of snowstorms, make sure you have alternative forms of power generation and heating. Check fuel supplies for woodburners, gas heaters, barbeques and generators.

    Stay up to date with the latest weather information from MetService. Pay attention to heavy snow warnings and road snowfall warnings. Avoid leaving home unless absolutely necessary when a snow warning is issued.

    If you have to travel make sure you are well prepared with snow chains, sleeping bags, warm clothing and essential emergency items.

    If you are caught in your car or truck in a snowstorm, stay in your vehicle. Run the engine every ten minutes to keep warm. Drink fluids to avoid dehydration. Open the window a little to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Make yourself visible to rescuers by tying a bright-coloured cloth to your radio aerial or door and keeping the inside light on.

  • Tornadoes sometimes occur during thunderstorms in some parts of New Zealand. A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air extending downwards to the ground from the base of a thunderstorm.

    Know the warning signs for tornadoes:

    • A long, continuous roar or rumble, or
    • A fast approaching cloud of debris, which could be funnel shaped.

    If you see a tornado funnel nearby, take shelter immediately. If you do not have a basement, move to an inside room with no windows or doors on the ground floor. Get under sturdy furniture and cover yourself with a mattress or blanket.

    Alert others, if you can.

    If caught outside, get away from trees if you can. Lie down flat in a nearby gully, ditch or low spot and protect your head.

    If in a car, get out immediately and look for a safe place to shelter. Do not try to outrun a tornado or get under your vehicle for shelter.

Severe weather warnings

MetService provides land-based severe weather alerts through a system of Outlooks, Watches and Warnings.

Outlooks — stay alert

Outlooks provide a 'heads up' that bad weather is coming in the next 3–6 days but there is some uncertainty about what might happen and where. Stay alert to the forecast and be prepared that you may be affected. 

Watches — stay alert

When a Watch is in place, stay alert and keep an eye on your local forecast for updates. Watches are used when severe weather is possible, but not imminent or certain.

Orange Warnings — take action

Orange warnings are used when the forecast indicates incoming bad weather (expected heavy rain, strong wind or heavy snow) will meet Severe Weather Criteria. It signifies that people need to be prepared and take action as appropriate as there could be some disruption to their day and potential risk to people, animals and property. The majority of warnings issued by MetService will be orange.

Red Warnings — take immediate action, act now!

Red warnings are reserved for only the most extreme weather events, such as heavy rain, strong wind or heavy snow related to events like ex-tropical cyclones, that are likely to have significant impact and disruption. It signifies that people need to act now as immediate action is required to protect people, animals and property from the impact of the weather. People should also be prepared to follow the advice of official authorities and emergency services.

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View current weather warnings on the MetService website.

  • New Zealand often gets hit by storms as it lies in the ‘Roaring Forties’, between 40 and 50 degrees latitude south, where mild air temperatures from the north meet cooler air from the south.

    Storms can bring heavy rain, hail, lightning, strong winds, and tornadoes. Storms can also cause flooding and storm surges, snow, and landslides. Dangers from storms include fallen trees and poles, torn-off roofs, fast-flowing currents in streams and rivers, flying objects, landslides and flooding.

    Tornadoes sometimes occur during thunderstorms in some parts of New Zealand. A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air extending downwards to the ground from the base of a thunderstorm. Compared with the tornadoes that occur over the Earth’s major continents, those observed in New Zealand are generally small and weak. More often than not, the damage resulting from these is minor because they exist for only a very short time. However, once in a while there is significant damage — and a threat to public safety — when one or more tornadoes passes through a built-up area.

    Cyclones are large revolving storms that develop in the tropics. They are also called hurricanes or typhoons. Cyclones have a wind-speed of more than 120 kilometres per hour, but usually weaken as they meet the cooler sea temperatures around New Zealand so that they are not classified as cyclones by the time they reach our shores. “Ex-cyclones” remain dangerous storms and cause major damage in New Zealand. In 1988 Cyclone Bola caused more than $200 million in damage, even though it was no longer a tropical cyclone by the time it reached our shores.

    Coastal areas can suffer from storm surges, which are extra-high waves caused by low pressure in the air above the sea that causes the sea-level to rise.

Find out more about what you need to do before, during and after these hazards.